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dashi with satoko

a staple of japanese cuisine- who knew it was so easy?

dashi stock is a basic soup broth in japan, made using only 3 ingredients: kombu (dried sea kelp), bonito flakes (fish shavings), and water. the kombu and bonito flakes were purchased at a japanese grocery store, the water was filtered from the tap.

my lovely friend satoko was generous enough to have me over for a dashi party, where we made first dashi, second dashi, and then used both in different dishes- a miso soup, and boiled bamboo shoots and enoki mushrooms. you won't find any measurements below, because she did it all by feel. i tried to take plenty of photos and notes to memorize the experience.


  • she added filtered water and two big fistfuls of bonito flakes to a medium sized sauce pan, and put it over medium heat. after wiping any white stuff from the kombu with a wet paper towel, she cut about a 2" chunk and added it to the pot once the flakes had absorbed some of the water and started to sink.
  • this mixture was brought just to a boil, and then turned off. it steeped for about 5-10 minutes, then was poured through a strainer into another pot.

it was gorgeous and smelled fantastic- not fishy at all, but smoky and rich.

  • making the second dashi is even easier. all you do is put the strained kombu and bonito flakes back in the first pot, cover with water, and simmer for about 15 minutes. strain it again, and you've got second dashi. this batch was much lighter in color than the first, and less fragrant, but still delicious. if you're going to make second dashi, it should be immediately after making the first batch- don't let those flakes hang out for too long.

while this deliciousness was happening, we snacked on the most beautiful wagashi that satoko's dad brought from tokyo and drank amazing green tea. it was magical. once the dashi was ready, she showed me how to make 2 dishes:

miso soup:

  • into the first dashi went small cubes of silken tofu, and then it was put over medium heat. while it got warm, she cut up thin strips of fried tofu (purchased frozen at a japanese grocery store, and defrosted). this went into the pot as well, and the whole thing was brought just to a boil. she explained that in miso soup it's nice to have something on the bottom (the silken tofu) and something floating on top (the fried tofu).
  • when the soup had come to a boil, the heat was turned off and a generous scoop of miso was added:

  • she let this sit to relax for a few minutes, and then gave it a stir and took a taste. it's important to taste it at this stage and adjust the amount of miso you prefer. once the perfect balance was achieved, it went back on the heat to warm everything up.

bamboo shoot and enoki mushrooms:

  • the second dashi got a large bunch of enoki mushrooms (cut in half horizontally) and 1 bamboo shoot (that had been cut in half horizontally, and then into 1/8ths lengthwise- it was such a pretty presentation). she also added a splash of whatever was in this box- the packaging was entirely in japanese so i don't know what's in it, or even what it's called, but it's exactly what has been missing in all of my japanese cooking.

and then we had the most impressive lunch! in addition to the dishes "we" made (i did nothing but take photos), she served a small block tofu topped with thinly sliced myoga, shiso, grated ginger, and drizzle of soy sauce (blew my mind), sesame green beans (the best i've ever eaten), and spectacular honey pickled plums- also a gift her dad brought from tokyo. he is really a wonderful gift giver (and the nicest man)- after we finished eating, they brought out a wonderful plum liquor with royal honey that we enjoyed over ice.

magical. have i already said that? i have to say it again- it was magical. from beginning to end, the most pleasant afternoon, and the most wonderfully generous hospitality. i hope someday soon to be able to repay this kindness.

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